Deckbuilding: The Three Trials

Coming back from my summer holidays I continue with the deckbuilding series, this time tackling The Three Trials. It’s one of my favourite quests from the entire game, being not just a great boss fight but having also great replayability thanks to the different combinations of Guardians, Barrows and Trials.

I will build for the first time a two-player Fellowship for this quest, because that question is as metionend in the analysis really tough in solo. I play sometimes two handed solo, so I will do this also here and I will talk a bit in general how to build a two handed Fellowship in this article, because it can be a bit overwhelming.

Initial Deckbuilding

When building a fellowship I first make one list of cards and heroes I want to use before I split them up. In this quest you have to deal with a big enemy from the start, so I decided to use Erkenbrand as my main defender, who can defend for both decks while cancelling Shadow effects. Because I want to play Ancestral Armor on him quickly I probably need two Leadership heroes in the same deck. I also want Lore access for healing and to use Gaffer Gamgee, who can block a Guardian every turn. We can’t use a lot of allies to attack because of the Cave Barrow and Curse of the Wild Men. So I picked Tactics Gimli to smash these Guardians. For him I want to have Citadel Plate and Vigilant Guard available, so we also need two tactics heroes. So there will be a heavy decks and a heavy Leadership deck.

I added Mablung to Gimli and Gildor Inglorion to Erkenbrand. Those are great glue heroes that help the decks to be more consistent, and Gildor allows us to play Lembas if we ad a Lore hero to his deck. I go with Beravor to draw even more cards. She will also become Steward of Gondor to cycle Gaffer and afford this healing cards. Because we want to play big unique allies for this quest anyway I decided to add the Eagle package with Radagast to the Tactics deck. With the heroes being chosen, we can fill the deck with some staples and unique allies, and there we go:

I just realized that I included ally Mablung in the Tactics deck, just because he’s one of my standard Lore allies. So much about messing up when building a two handed Fellowship… I never used his ability so I could have just used Robin Smallburrow instead, or Bablung, whatever you prefer.

Two more thoughts on fellowship building:

  • Think about who will deal with the enemies. I included Dunedain Cache here to allow Gimli kill enemies engaged with the other deck. If you build only one combat deck without range/sentinel include cards that can force or avoid engagements.
  • Make sure what effects are global or target just yourself. I first wanted to include Loyal Hound for Radagast, but without being able to cancel damage from Erkenbrand it’s not that useful.

Testing

My first three games were all very intense. I always had to deal with the Wolf’s Guardian first. He has the highest attack and puts a lot of early pressure on Erkenbrand, but luckily I could find healing or defense boosting for him. The real problem was that I had no threat reduction. I liked to stall on the (third) Trial of Strength so I could kill the new revealed Guardians before they attack, and with over 30 starting threat Things became a bit difficult. Game one I finshed with the Tactics deck having 49 threat, game two both decks threated out. The last game I advanced earlier then I would have liked and only could safe my heroes because I draw into a Feint.

Locations were the other thing I was a bit worried about but the Meneldor + Flight of the Eagles combo could keep the staging area under control. Gaffer was as strong as I thought and, maybe he should have an errata to only target non-unique enemies. I will at least try to avoid him in the future.

Adjustments

So I added some threat reduction in the form of 3 Favor of the Valar and 3 Woodmen’s Clearing that replaced the Dunedain Warnings, one Hauberk of Mail (I had enough defense boosting) and the Galadriel (too expensive).

For the Tactics deck I swapped in one Rohan Warhorse for a Citadel Plate and took out the Unseen Strikes and one Landroval for 3 Heed the Dream. Again I didn’t need that much stat boosting and rather had more consistency.

With these changes I played 3 additional times, again starting twice with the Wolf’s Guardian! Both of those games I could win still realtively confidently. The game I lost he came up a the second Trial, making an extra attack with The Guardian’s Fury. I blocked with Erkenbrand, still having Radagast ready for the second one. Turns out the shadow is again The Guardian’s Fury, so yet another attack that kills a hero. Those things can happen every once in a while and theres not too much you can do about it, except for playing spirit. So I decided to redraw the Shadow and continued to get at least a pseudo-Victory that let’s me stay happy with the fellowship as it is. I will Name it “Hammer and Anvil of Pain”, refering to the abilty of Gimli and Erkenbrand to take damage for benefits.

Conclusion

That’s it for The Three Trials. I still enjoyed it, even tough the general increase in enemies attack strength over the years makes it less outstanding. Deckbuilding-wise I recommend to adjust your deck to your overall playstyle (that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to netdeck). I normally play more aggresively so I don’t run threat reduction, but if you wan’t to stall you should probably bring a bit.

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